Whenever I hear about someone leaving Christianity, I know that they were never really Christian to begin with. It would be like Jesus saying during his ministry years that he was parting ways with the Father. Can you imagine him saying that? Why would he say that? Who would give him a better deal than God?
Who would give us a better deal than God?
This is the danger of luring people to Christianity when they don’t really want what God is offering. Scripture tells us that only those who are called can come to God, but it’s God doing the calling. When we lead people to God, we need to be sure that God is actually asking us to lead them, because if we lead them on our own volition (that is, without God calling them), the mission is ultimately going to fail, and we’ll pay the price for it.
Not only doctors play God these days. Christians do, too, when they try to evangelize the reluctant. Jesus never instructed us to lure or cajole people into choosing God’s Way. In fact, he told us to let those people be and to shake the dust off our feet as a warning to them. Our job is simply to present the Gospel so that it’s understandable, not to tart it up and sell it at half-price with a free bonus gift for the first 100 customers. Those who truly want to accept God’s invitation will do so without tricks or bribes or signing bonuses.
God lures because he knows how to do it perfectly; we, on our own steam, only mess it up, and also tend to do it for our ego’s sake.
When Jesus first hit the ministry scene, he was like the new prophet in town. Everyone wanted a piece of him. But most of those early Jesus fans were only in it for the miracle healings and good feels. So when Jesus started preaching about persecution and loving your enemies, they wanted out.
Today’s Jesus fans are much the same, caught up in the good feels and promises of material abundance. But serving God, while never without good feels, also involves a life of itinerancy, poverty, rejection, and persecution. There are no good feels in those things in and of themselves, though the constant presence of God’s Spirit does lighten the load. Christians who fall away from following Jesus do so because they were not called in the first place and are not reborn, and so God’s Spirit is not with them. Absent God’s Spirit, the Gospel message doesn’t make much sense to them, and so these fair-weather followers see no point in trailing after Jesus after the initial rush is over.
Jesus’ three-year ministry started with just a few people, swelled into tens of thousands, and then dwindled to a handful by the time of his execution. The same trajectory has been playing out since his resurrection – a few passionate followers eventually became billions of nominal Christians, though today only few genuine followers remain. As an indication of the extent of the falling away that he knew would happen at the end of time, Jesus wondered if he would even find faith on Earth at his second coming.
The falling away is happening now.
Are you a fair-weather fan of Jesus, just in it for the good feels and promise of abundance, or are you a sincere born-again believer who follows Jesus because you can’t conceive of doing anything else? When Jesus asked his disciples if they, too, would leave him, Peter responded: “Where would we go? Who else has the words of eternal life?”
Indeed: Where would you go? And in going, where would you end up?
Those who fall away from Christianity were never Christians to begin with.
There is no life outside of God’s Spirit, and there’s nothing better on Earth than being a born-again follower of Jesus and a child of God.
When I was 17, I belonged to a musical group that was preparing to go on tour in the US. But I hadn’t been to rehearsals for a while, so the group leader pulled me aside a few weeks before the group’s departure and told me I couldn’t go with them. I remember feeling an unreal feeling, as if this wasn’t happening to me, and that at any moment the leader would burst out laughing and yell “KIDDING! Of course you’re coming with us!”, but that didn’t happen. Instead, I was unceremoniously escorted to the door, and that was that.
Two weeks later the group went on tour without me.
I was left behind.
I could go into details about why I hadn’t gone to rehearsals for a while, but let’s just say that some things were beyond my control, and some weren’t. The long and the short of it was that I wasn’t prepared for the trip. I didn’t know the music. It wouldn’t be fair to the other people, the leader pointed out, if they worked so hard to go and I didn’t work as hard (or even at all) and still got to go.
It wouldn’t be fair to them, was the argument.
I was well aware that I wasn’t prepared, but I figured I would get a break. I always got a break. I was used to getting breaks all my life to that point, and frankly I counted on them. I expected them. Exceptions were always made for me. Even if I lagged at something, I got pushed through. People vouched for me. Room was made.
But not this time. In fact, this time set the tone for the next 19 years until my rebirth. I had grown up being made an exception, but I had finally hit the wall. Very few exceptions were made for me from that day forward.
We will all die someday, and after that comes the judgement. We can’t avoid either, though we can prepare now, like the five wise virgins who had enough oil in their lamps. But there are those (and they are the vast majority) who think they are somehow the exception and that even if they’re not prepared, they’ll get pushed through, rules will be bent for them. And so they continue to live as if they have every right to go on tour, even though they haven’t rehearsed and don’t know the music.
Heaven is a reward that is so far above and beyond our greatest expectations that all we can really do when we talk about it is grunt and point. Anything we say is just filthy rags in comparison to the beauty and perfection and unspeakable joy that awaits those who go to rehearsals and fill their lamps ahead of time. There will be no exceptions when, as Johnny Cash puts it, the man comes around. We will be judged not on our expectations but on what we did or didn’t do with the very great privilege of time and space and talents and free will that God so graciously gave us, though we deserved none of it.
You can imagine that I did not learn my lesson about preparing when I was kicked out of the music group. I got angry instead, and the anger grew and grew with each subsequent kick to the teeth. In the final moments before my rebirth 19 years later, I was so full of anger and resentment and outrage at how people treated me, I died from it. Yes, you can die from misplaced pride. I know, because I did. It never occurred to me in all the years leading up to that physical death that I was in fact to blame for every problem that hounded me. Not one thing had been done to me that I hadn’t earned, including getting excluded from the music tour all those years ago.
I know now that when things get uneasy, I need to look at the choices I’ve made leading up to the unease and rectify any wrong ones as best I can. This is a process I’ve learned since my rebirth over 20 years ago. I take nothing for granted now and expect no exceptions to be made for me, any more than they were made for the foolish virgins with no oil in their lamps. Some things are serious and real, and going to Heaven (or not going to Heaven) is the most serious and real of them all.
I pray to God that you won’t be called aside one day and told you can’t go to Heaven because you didn’t do what you were supposed to do when you had the grace of time to do it, and that no exceptions will be made for you.
I pray to God that I won’t be called aside, either.
Jesus warned us that we would face persecution as his followers. If you’re genuinely following Jesus, then you’ve likely already experienced it. And while it may not feel good while it’s happening, persecution is actually a good sign: It indicates that you’re “over the target” and making headway for the Kingdom.
Regardless of the form that persecution takes, you’re always to respond to it as Jesus taught us: praying for your persecutors and blessing them. You are NEVER to report the persecution to an authority, including law enforcement, and you are NEVER to try to get revenge on your persecutor. Instead, you’re to put your personal feelings aside and be kind and courteous.
I knew a woman who was mercilessly persecuted for decades, but not once did she speak an unkind word either to or about her persecutors. On the contrary, she always found some reason to praise and encourage them. The kinder she was to her persecutors, the crueler they were to her, but she never swayed from her approach. To her dying breath, she continued to bless and pray for those who hated and persecuted her. Of all the people I know, she is the only one I know for sure made it home.
Blessing someone while they’re abusing you for your beliefs is one of the most difficult things in the world to do, and you will not succeed at it without relying on God for help. Persecution is a test to see how well you’ve learned the lesson about not being offended by anything. Very few people can stand quiet and motionless while being beaten and spat on, but Jesus did. We’re also expected to do the same under similar circumstances.
My grandmother used to say: “The proof is in the pudding.” We can claim to be born-again followers of Jesus, but if we respond to persecution by pushing back at our enemies instead of blessing and praying for them, then we’re not as Christian as we claim to be. I don’t say this to discourage you but to remind you (and to remind myself) what is expected of us in the world. Being a born-again believer has enormous privileges as well as enormous responsibilities, including being the one designated to stop the cycle of violence.
One of the best ways to successfully handle persecution is to remind yourself that God is in control. If he permits you to be persecuted, he is testing you. Go to him for help, like you would a trusted teacher. God is the only one who’s going to get you through the attack. Remember that Jesus never did anything without first asking for God’s help. Asking for help from God was his default and it should be ours as well.
Long story short – don’t fight back against persecution and don’t report it to any authority: ENDURE IT. It is meant for your strengthening. Also, those persecuting you need your intervening prayers, which are not going to be of any value (that is, God won’t hear them) if at the same time you’re confronting your persecutors, beating them, reporting them, suing them, or having them arrested. Even telling other people what someone did to you will nullify any good that might have come from it. Keep it between you, your persecutors, and God.
Persecution is a given as a follower of Jesus. We are told to be offended in nothing, so don’t be offended by persecution. If we are being persecuted, it’s because we’re over the target and making great strides for the Kingdom. Rejoice at that. Don’t complain about persecution or try to eradicate it – REJOICE!
One of the major differences between the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT) is how people are perceived and valued in God’s economy. In the OT, wealth was considered a direct blessing from God, so rich people were valued and held in high esteem by society solely for their wealth. In the NT, however, Jesus overturned this social precept, saying how hard it is for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. This statement profoundly shocked his listeners at the time. Jesus also praised the poor old widow for contributing two mites to the temple offering, saying that she actually gave more than the wealthy, as she gave everything she had to live on, whereas the rich only contributed from their excess. These were revolutionary statements in Jesus’ day, and for some they still are.
As well, Jesus overturned perceptions regarding relationships and gendered roles. For Jesus, people were people, regardless of age, sex, or social standing. He was, as scripture tells us, no respecter of persons, meaning he didn’t judge based on appearance or status. Tribal loyalty also didn’t matter anymore in Jesus’ revolutionary economy. What mattered was doing what pleased God. So, as Jesus explained, even strangers can be our mother and brethren if they do God’s will. In the same way, Jesus proclaimed that women and children were just as worthy as men to hear and receive and preach the Good News, defying rigid age- and sex-based norms. Women and children were always welcomed by Jesus wherever he went. In the process, Jesus made some of his most loyal and passionate followers in women.
Another societal norm that Jesus did away with was the exclusion of social undesirables. Instead, Jesus welcomed and healed these people, and some of them then followed him. Rather than demand that lepers maintain social distancing from him, Jesus went right up to them, laid his hands on them, and healed them. Touching “untouchables” was unheard of in Jesus’ day. The same with prostitutes and sinners. Instead of demanding they keep their distance, Jesus welcomed them, healed them, and invited them to join in his ministry work.
Welcoming and healing was what Jesus did. He never charged anything for it, and he never turned anyone away, if he saw they were sincere in wanting his help. For Jesus, as exemplified throughout the New Testament, people were just people – not Jew or non-Jew, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, educated or uneducated – people were just people. The only distinction Jesus made between people was that they either wanted to do God’s will or they didn’t. That is how he saw them. He still does, and he encourages us to see people the same way.
I moved to the country a little while ago. Inland country. I’ve never lived this far from town. There’s a paved road, but the only vehicles on it are those owned by my few neighbours as they come and go, or an occasional passing pickup truck. I can count the number of vehicles that roll by my house in the course of a day on two hands. This same number zoomed past me in the course of 3 or 4 seconds in my last city home.
Instead of the rush and and drone and stench of traffic, there is only bird song and sweet air. The birds sing all day long, especially the robins, who apparently have a lot to say to each other (or perhaps to all the other birds as well). I think the robins are the designated news bearers. I can tell when the rain is about to start by the change in their song, and I can also tell when the rain is about to end by a different change. I don’t need to consult the online weather forecast anymore. I just listen to the robins.
There’s also a Beethoven’s 5th bird. I’ve never heard it before. It’s not a city bird or a seaside bird. It sings the opening few notes of Beethoven’s 5th. Maybe if I play the whole symphony for it over and over, it will learn a few more notes.
For the first time in a long time, I sleep all the way through the night without interruption. I’m always surprised to wake and see it’s already daylight. It’s been years since I’ve slept through the night, night after night. Only on rare occasion in the city will I sleep through the night, but most nights not. In the country, it seems, I can sleep through every night.
The darkness outside my house on a cloudy night is uncompromising. It’s as black as I’ve ever seen, short of closing my eyes in a dark closet. On clear nights, the stars are everywhere above, like the sky has an overlay of sequence. There are not just occasional stars (the bright ones) and just in a small corner of the horizon, like in the city; they’re everywhere in the sky, all night long.
For the first time in my life, my neighbours came over to welcome me and introduce themselves when I arrived. This has never happened to me before. In all the houses and apartments I’ve lived in all over the world, I’ve rarely known my neighbours by name, and none have come to welcome me upon my move-in or to offer me a hand if I need one. These are actually real neighbours being neighbourly, not just strangers who live next-door.
The only down-side so far is the bugs, especially the ones who barge in uninvited and without knocking. I’ve had a few discussions with them about boundaries (they can come to the doors and windows, but no farther), but they pretty much ignore me and keep doing their own thing. I’ve had to move to a more defensive mode and avoid going outdoors at dawn and dusk, and vacuum every day instead of once a week. I think they’re finally getting the hint that they’re not welcome in the house unless they’re on their best behavior (no biting, no stinging, and stay out of the food!).
I like bugs. The ones who do breach the barriers I always gently carry back outside. I would expect the same treatment if I wandered in someplace I didn’t belong. Yes, I like bugs, I just don’t like being bugged by them. There are bugs in Heaven, but they don’t bug you. I think God gives them a different name when they get there.
Spiders I give free reign of the house because they’re hard workers and pretty much keep to themselves. We have a mutually respectful relationship: They respect my part of the house and I respect theirs. We get along well, and I thank them for their hard work.
I’m not sure why I didn’t think of moving inland before, away from the city. Maybe it was because of transportation logistics. I’ve never driven, so I rely mostly on public transit. But the ongoing mask mandates have made public transit inaccessible to me for the past year. In fact, most of the city has been inaccessible. The few times I ventured into stores that don’t deliver or offer curbside pick-up, I got harassed or chased out. The same has happened in hotels and public buildings. With my naked face, I am the new leper. People are afraid of me simply for existing. I am publicly shunned and shamed. I joked to someone a few months back that I should wear bells (like lepers in England used to do) to warn people that I’m coming so they can run and hide. The person thought I was serious and considered it a good idea.
With transportation no longer a guarantee and shopping all but off limits other than for deliveries and outdoor pick-ups, any motivation I had to remain in a city is gone. I can earn my daily bread from wherever I am, and it doesn’t get any better than this. I feel like a different human here. All the humans are different here. The birds are different. The air is different. The road is different. Even the bugs are different, in an enthusiastic kind of way. I know why Jesus chose to spend most of his time outside cities and towns and villages, only going into them to preach and teach, but otherwise living away from the hubbub. Life is just better when you’re surrounded by fewer people and more nature.
We were not made to live in fresh air-starved boxes piled on top of each other, not knowing each other’s names and constantly surrounded by noise and pollution and the rush of vehicles. We have to turn a part of us off in order to tolerate it, otherwise we’d be overwhelmed. The part we have to turn off is the part that connects us with our environment. In Satan’s economy, connectivity is about artificial telecommunications, but in God’s economy, connectivity is about communicating with each other and with the natural world naturally.
I am just now starting to experience life the way God intended us to live it on Earth (better late than never), and I cannot imagine going back to a city or even to a small town. Those of you who live in a rural area know what I’m talking about; those of you who are still stuck in a city for whatever reason, I recommend getting out permanently as soon as you can. Use cities as a resource, but not as a home. Let the place where you lay your head at night be dark and quiet and peaceful, and let your days be filled with open sky and trees, not buildings and cell towers.
What Satan intends for our harm, God will use for our benefit. The mask mandate was a blessing in the form of a disguise, as it finally got me out of the city.
And I ain’t never goin’ back.
I know a thing or two about spiritual strongholds from personal experience. Before I was born again over 20 years ago, I was under several strongholds, none of them good. You know you’re under a bad spiritual stronghold when no matter how hard you try to get away from something or someone, you cannot, you keep going back despite your best intentions. It has control over you in a way that defies logic. It’s way too strong for you and it holds you. That’s why it’s called a stronghold.
For example, I was in what some people would call a “toxic” relationship. There was nothing good in it besides the physical aspect. The relationship was built on lies and deceit and abuse on both sides, but I could not tear myself away from it. Even with the help of family and friends and law enforcement, I still went back to the relationship time and time again. This went on for nearly five years, until I was reborn. After that, I could not tolerate the physical aspect of the relationship anymore and I felt a different kind of affection for the person. The stronghold had been broken, and I was able to leave on good terms, and permanently.
When I was reborn, all of the demonic strongholds over me were broken in an instant. Spiritual rebirth is actually an exorcism of the spirits that have dominion over unbelievers. It’s the breaking of what used to be called a spell. Some unbelievers have only one or two of these spirits holding sway over them, while others have dozens. I had at least dozens, and some were exceedingly strong, like the one that made me desire alcohol. But rebirth broke the hold of them all and in one fell swoop and placed me under the power and protection of God’s Holy Spirit.
No spiritual stronghold is stronger than God’s Holy Spirit. Even all the demon spirits combined cannot overpower God’s Holy Spirit. This is the stronghold under which I now live and breathe and move. This is God’s Kingdom on Earth.
I mention the existence of spiritual strongholds because most of the world is currently under a particularly insidious one. People are being ruled by fear and are incapable of processing information in a logical or reasoned way. Jesus called this being blind and deaf. They are spiritually blind and deaf because of the power of the stronghold over them. You cannot break this stronghold (or in fact any stronghold) using reason or logical arguments. Facts are also useless against the spell. Only God has the power to break the stronghold, and he’ll only do that if people cry out for help.
God gave us free will as a gift; it’s all that we can really call our own. Our body is not our own, our soul is not our own, even our earthly possessions are not our own. They all belong to God. All we can claim as our own is our free will. And because we own it free and clear, our free will is respected by God and he will not override it without our consent. Bad spiritual strongholds will remain in place as long as people make choices that keep them in place. But the minute they cry out for help, God will swoop in to help them. Whether they choose to accept his help is up to them.
When I cried out for help on the day I was reborn, God heard me before the words had even left my lips. He then showed me my options (which in my case were to choose to forgive or not to forgive someone who had done me grave wrong [this is not the same person I was in the mutually toxic relationship with]). God also showed me the consequences of each of those two choices. I chose to forgive solely based on the consequence of the choice to forgive, which was that the pain would stop. In choosing to forgive, God then forgave me, and the demons that had hold of me were exorcised. They were banished, and with them went the pain. In their place, God’s Holy Spirit rushed in and has remained with me for over 20 years. Saying yes to choosing to forgive was the best decision I ever made in my life, and the good repercussions of that decision resonate to this day.
Demonic spiritual strongholds can only be broken by God’s Holy Spirit, and only if the person under the stronghold first of all wants out and second of all accepts God’s rescue terms. If instead of choosing to forgive I had chosen not to forgive, the demonic strongholds imprisoning me would not have been broken, and more would have been added. I don’t think about that option because I know it ends in the lake of fire. There is no other way for it to end. God would not have given me another chance to break free of the strongholds. That was my moment; that was my visitation; that was my one and only opportunity. Thank God I chose freedom under God’s Holy Spirit rather than continued and worsening imprisonment under demonic spirits. Thank God that God showed me the right choice to make. He didn’t coerce me; he didn’t force me; he just shone a bright light on the right choice, and I chose it.
Jesus tells us in scripture that the world is under Satan. The world’s people will remain under the authority of Satan and his demons as long as they choose to remain under it. You cannot break that stronghold; only God can, and only if people want him to.
We live in an age of widespread and constant fear that is continuously being stoked by politicians, “experts”, and various forms of media. In formerly Christian (that is, free) countries, physical safety has replaced freedom as the highest value. To achieve this safety, most people are willingly giving up their hard-won individual freedoms without a fight, putting their faith in lock-downs and injections while parroting the communist slogan “for the greater good”. Not surprisingly, the more freedom they give up to gain this promised safety, the more elusive it becomes, and the less safe they feel.
The Age of Fear has arrived.
Jesus lived his life fearlessly. Yes, he had a healthy fear of God, but that didn’t mean he was afraid of God; it meant he respected the power that God had over him. As a sign of his respect, Jesus did everything to please God so as not to fall on the wrong side of the power.
As followers of Jesus, we also have the same capacity to live as fearlessly as Jesus did while on Earth. But what made Jesus so fearless? What enabled him to live his life without fear of anyone or anything?
The answer is rooted in Jesus’ complete faith and trust in God, and in his understanding of God’s Kingdom on Earth. As soon as Jesus came out as the Messiah – the king of the Jews – the Kingdom was established. Jesus knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was under the protection of God’s Holy Spirit and holy angels while he was in the Kingdom. This was the safe place promised by God to his people: No physical or spiritual harm can come to those who live in the spiritual Promised Land. The physical protection lasts until it’s time to go home (when it’s removed to enable physical death), but the spiritual protection remains as long as the person being protected is in right-standing with God.
Imagine a private security firm made up of billions of expertly trained and well-armed guards surrounding you at all times, and then you have a bit of an idea of the protection afforded you by God’s Kingdom on Earth. When you’re in the Kingdom, your spiritual enemies can’t get anywhere near you. And even if they do, they have no power over you, not until it’s your time.
Jesus knew the protection afforded by the Kingdom and deeply understood it. In fact, it formed the cornerstone of his faith, which is why his response to his disciples’ fears and failures was typically “WHERE IS YOUR FAITH?” Faith is the opposite of fear. If you have faith in God, then you know God’s Kingdom has been established on Earth, with Jesus as King. If you know the Kingdom has been established and that Jesus is your king, then you know you are protected both physically and spiritually. This should give you the same level of fearlessness that Jesus had while on Earth.
So, if you find yourself being afraid of anyone or anything in this Age of Fear, ask yourself “WHERE IS YOUR FAITH?” Then do everything you can to deepen your faith and trust in God and get a better understanding of his Kingdom.
We are all made in God’s image.
No-one is made to be evil. We are all made to do good and want the good. That’s what it means to be made in God’s image.
However, with our free will, we make either good choices or bad choices, right ones or wrong ones. We then live the consequences of those choices, and they define us.
We are not born children of God; we are born creatures of God. We become children of God through spiritual rebirth.
Nor are any born children of Satan; they become children of Satan by their choices.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was raised in Nazareth and grew in favour there with God and man. He was popular in Nazareth as a boy and a young man. The Nazarenes liked him. When he was invited to read in the synagogue in Nazareth, it was because the rabbi and the elders liked him. Everyone in Nazareth liked him. He had no seeming enemies there.
And yet those same people, the ones he grew up with and grew in favor with, the ones who graciously invited him to read scripture in the synagogue, the ones who all liked him, turned on him in an instant and tried to kill him by running him off a cliff. How is this possible?
There are only two sides in the spiritual battle: you are either with God, in which case you have God’s Holy Spirit guiding you, or you are not with God, in which case you have the unholy spirits guiding you. There is no third side.
The day that Jesus came out as the Messiah in Nazareth and was then run out of town in an attempt to kill him, the masks slipped from the faces of the Nazarenes. The “I am virtuous” masks slipped, and the ugly reality of whose children the Nazarenes actually were became all too apparent. They may have been born God’s creatures, they may have had the appearance of being godly, but by their actions they showed themselves to be children of Satan.
The “I am virtuous” mask-wearers are all around the children of God all the time. There is no place on Earth where the children of Satan are not. As born-again believers, we live with that reality. We live with the reality not only that the children of Satan are all around us but that they can be guided and prompted by the unholy spirits to run us off a cliff at any time. This is not a comfortable reality for us to live with, but it is what it is.
Even so, Jesus said we are spiritually and physically protected within God’s Kingdom on Earth by God’s Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus easily passed through the Nazarene mob trying to kill him, we can easily pass through the “I am virtuous” ungodly mob that can turn at any time and tear us to pieces. As long as we remain within God’s Kingdom, we are protected. Only when it is time for us to go home will the physical protection be removed, as it was for Jesus, as it was for Stephen, as it was for Peter and James and Paul and for every other child of God throughout history, whether known to us or not. We are protected spiritually and physically within God’s Kingdom until it’s time to go home, and then the physical protection is removed.
This should be a comfort to us, to know that as children of God we’re fully protected by God’s Holy Spirit during our time on Earth. We need to live conscious of that reality and not let the children of Satan intimidate us. Jesus walked fearless throughout his ministry years, even with a bounty on his head. There wasn’t one time when he was afraid. His fearlessness was rooted in his trust in God and in the knowledge that he lived and moved within God’s Kingdom and so was protected spiritually and physically by God’s Holy Spirit. We likewise need to unconditionally trust God and his perfect protection so that we, too, can move fearlessly through the world until it’s time for us to go home.
I had a curt online exchange recently with someone who disagreed with my stand against protesting. The person stated that protesting was a biblical precedent (rule or guide) and so was a permitted Christian response to the world.
I disagreed, and I also based my argument on a biblical precedent.
Christians are to follow Jesus in everything they do. The New Testament is an amendment to the Old Testament. As with most amendments, the foundational document remains valid unless directly addressed and modified in the newer one.
And here’s my point – if Jesus told us a new way to respond that in some way opposes the Old Testament way, we are to follow Jesus. In other words, Jesus’ directives take precedence over Old Testament directives, so Jesus’ directives are our new biblical precedent.
So, for instance, we are no longer to exact an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth from our enemies, but to love them, and to bless and pray for them. Yes, an eye for an eye served as the biblical precedent up to the time of Jesus, but it is no longer valid. It has been amended.
The same goes for prepping. I put a few noses out of joint a few months ago when I questioned people’s prepping efforts. The only prepping we born-again believers should be do is girding our loins, reading our Bible, keeping our lamps well-oiled, and hanging with God. That should be the sole extent of our prepping. In this, we follow Jesus’ example.
From the start of his ministry, Jesus essentially lived on the run with his followers. He didn’t stockpile goods and weapons and hunker down until the worst had passed. He knew that would make him a sitting duck. So he was constantly on the move, working (preaching, teaching, and healing) as he went. Yes, Joseph in the Old Testament did what you might call prepping by stockpiling food and other supplies in Egypt against the coming famine, but that is Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us that the guy who prepped and stockpiled and then sat back on his heels, congratulating himself for his efforts, was dead the next day. All his prepping was for nothing.
Prepping in New Testament times (that is, today) is a way of saying to God: “I don’t have faith that you’ll look after my needs, so I’m going to do what I think should be done without consulting you first. I’m going to buy enough food to last me for a long time, just like that guy in the New Testament who stockpiled his food and then died the next day”. That’s what food and supplies prepping says to God if you’re a born-again believer. It’s essentially coveting. And if you don’t want to stop coveting preps, you’re like the rich guy who got depressed when Jesus directed him to sell all his goods, give to the poor, and follow him. That is the New Testament precedent.
What it all comes down to is this: As born-again believers, we are to heed Jesus’ directives, which are New Testament amendments to the Old Testament. So if anything in the Old Testament conflicts with what Jesus did or told us to do, we do what Jesus did or told us to do. It’s as simple as that.
Why did God command us to love him but not to love our parents? Why are we instead commanded to honor them?
God made us in such a way that we would naturally want to love him. In other words, we have an inbuilt desire to love him. However, through misapplying our free will, we sometimes give the love that’s meant for God to people and things. This is why God included the Commandment to love him specifically, and to do so with all our heart and all our soul and all our might. If we keep this Commandment, we won’t stray off the “love path” (lol) and mistakenly give the love that we’ve been made to give to God to someone or something else.
Our parents are not God. No matter how hard they try to be good parents, they are all too human and all too prone to the flaws and faults of humans. While God does put into our parents’ hearts a certain measure of his love for us at our birth, that love is conditional and can fade with time. Many things can happen to negatively affect the love. God invites and enables parents to love their children and vice-versa, but his Commandment is for us to love him.
Rather than commanding us to love our parents, God commands us to honor them instead. In simplistic terms, we honor our parents by not speaking badly of them. If we have a grievance with them, we take it to God. We take it ONLY to God. In Genesis, one of Noah’s three sons exposed his father’s nakedness to his brothers, but Noah’s two other sons honored their father by walking backwards towards him as he lay drunk and asleep and covered his nakedness with a garment. They covered their father; they didn’t gawk at him or expose him or ridicule him or blame him for his mistake: They covered him. And for so doing, they were later blessed by Noah and by God. The son who exposed Noah was cursed.
While it seems relatively straight-forward, honoring our parents is one of the most frequently broken Commandments among Christians. I have heard countless professional preachers present themselves as survivors of child abuse and go into gory detail about their alcoholic mother and/or physically abusive father. Then they make things worse by inviting their listeners to share their own abuse experiences.
Most of us born-agains love our parents and have no problem keeping the Commandment to honor them. But for those who do have a difficult relationship with their mother and/or their father, honoring can still be done even in the absence of affection. All that is required is a respect for the role played by the parents (not respect for how well the role is played; respect for the role itself). And at the same time, we should always speak kindly of our parents, covering their mistakes like Noah’s two respectful sons covered his. Do this, and you’ll be blessed. Don’t do it, and you’ll be cursed, because you’ll be breaking a Commandment, and nothing good ever comes from willfully breaking God’s Commandments.